Fifth Stop

Absolution Under Fire 

1976 057 V0001
Paul Henry Wood, (American, 1872–1892), Absolution under Fire, 1891, Oil on canvas. Gift of the artist, 1976.057


This work, painted by Notre Dame student Paul Wood at just 19 years of age, depicts former university president Rev. William J. Corby CSC addressing Union troops at the battle of Gettysburg. During the war, Corby served as chaplain to the 88th New York Regiment of the Irish Brigade. Witnesses remember Corby’s message of forgiveness as “awe-inspiring,” a sentiment reflected in the rendering of both Corby and the expectant soldiers. However, this scene carries even more significance for the university, as it may depict the origination of Notre Dame’s mascot. As legend has it, the “Fighting Irish” moniker was first applied to Irish immigrant soldiers fighting for the Union army in the Irish brigade, the very men that fought under Fr. Corby’s spiritual leadership. The term did not come to be associated with Notre Dame’s sports teams until the 20th century, but this painting provides an early illustration of the university’s indomitable spirit.

After viewing this work, feel free to wander into the other gallery spaces! Don’t forget to follow the Snite on instagram (@snitemuseum) to learn more about the collection and hear about all the events we have over the course of the semester! Welcome to Notre Dame!